Thursday, August 27, 2009

Live At KSC: NASA Delays 12:22 AM Friday Launch

NASA is scrubbing a planned 12:22 a.m. launch for shuttle Discovery and seven astronauts to give engineers and managers more time to analyze an apparent valve failure that triggered a launch scrub earlier this week.

The agency instead will shoot for a 11:59 p.m. Friday launch opportunity.

More to come.


Nick said...

Does Russia have as many problems as NASA in launching? Is their saftey record the same or better than NASA? I'm not a rocket scientist, but something we've been doing for 30 years should not be so hard. With the country in the shape it's in now is this crap what we should be worried about?

Anonymous said...

The shuttle is the most complex machine ever built next to the Saturn V and there tends to be techical problems. They are probably erring on the side of caution. I would err on the side of caution. Better than be safe than sorry.

Todd Halvorson said...

Anon is absolutely right. The engineers are off trying to figure out a strategy for handling a repeat of the valve trouble that cropped up during propellant-loading the other day. They need to be able to ensure they know the position of the valve -- open or closed -- in the event of a limit switch sensor failure.

Nick said...


You did not answer the question. Does Russia have as many problems as NASA in launching? Is their saftey record the same or better than NASA?

Anonymous said...


Nick said...

"The shuttle is the most complex machine ever built"

I bought that 30 years ago. The light bulb was wild in its day.

Todd Halvorson said...


The Russian Soyuz is much safer than the shuttle. And it has a much better record for on-time launches. It rarerly scrubs. The Soyuz rocket is equipped with a launch aboart system that would pull the spacecraft away from an exploding rocket. Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Gennady Strekalov survived a 1984 Soyuz explosion on the launch pad because the tractor rocket abort system blasted their spacecraft off the top of the exploding rocket. The shuttle's escape system -- a telescoping pole -- can only be used in controlled gliding flight at 40,000 feet. Few failure scenarios would enable the shuttle the get to controlled gliding flight at 40,000 feet.

Nick said...


Anonymous said...

Someone above said, "Better safe than sorry." And that person is right, if unsure - you don't go.

But, I take it a step further. If you really believe in "Better safe than sorry (BSTS)," then do as I have proposed over and over and stop using the shuttle ASAP. BSTS means we use Progress, Soyuz and the new freighter (unmanned is especially safer for cargo). BSTS means we ignore the absolutely absurd proposal of Rep Kozmas to keep flying the shuttle until another man-rated vehicle is ready (that could be 10-15 years). BSTS means we reduce the remaining 7 shuttle flights to the 5 essential for ISS completion and maybe 1 add'l if the size of the shuttle is required for specific spare parts. BSTS means we make sure we never again design a glider alongside an ET. And BSTS, to be honest, means putting the launch site for the new system, when they design it, somewhere other than the thunderstorm and hurricane capital of the world.

Memo to those who say you must launch near the equator and near an ocean: Look up Baikonur Cosmodrome on the map.

Finally, if they aren't going to launch, would NASA please quit closing the refuge and beach. Some of us want recreation - but we are stopped by armed guards and locked gates. Six weekends lost this year and now here comes the 7th. And if they miss this window - Saturday, Oct 17th and the next one is pushed out to Saturday Dec 13th. If they aren't going to launch anyway, please quit scheduling them for the weekends. Just leave everything open until you figure it out and then tell us to go home from the beach. No way are terrorists going to hide in the sand dunes for weeks on end to blow up a shuttle that never launches.

NASA, please, say "Uncle" soon.


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the Russian issues surrounding ballistic re-entries. The capsules were not slowing down correctly, overshooting their landing and landing hard enough to injure the Astronauts inside. It is only by the grace of God that nobody was killed by the errors. Ask why the Russians are not carrying the ISS payloads to space? Why? Because they can't lift it with Soyuz. The shuttle outperforms the Russian rocket in every aspect, but to do so, it is far more advanced and technical. Soyuz is a Sardine can whereas the Shuttle is a 747 when it comes to room and capacity. The flaw of the Shuttle is the heat shield and it's exposure during launch. Engineers have been working very hard to stop the foam losses that can cause damage during launch. Ground crews are working ever so much harder to prevent debris from the launch pad, flying off during launch and damaging the Shuttle. Last launch there was zero FOD (Foreign Object Debris) left behind on the pad. Crews inspect the pad after launch and found no FOD that was left behind by sloppy work ethics. This means the people at KSC deeply care about the safety of the Astronauts and are working harder than ever to fly the Shuttles with zero accidents.

Human Space Flight is risky, our job on the ground is to take as much risk away as possible. If that means stopping to look at data and understand it, then we have learned quite a few lessons since Challenger and Coulmbia. To be ignorant and fire a vehicle off that might have an issue, is playing God with the lives of seven Astronauts.
These men and women get strapped to a explosive rocket and shot into space, a place that forgives ZERO errors. The least we can do is make sure the vehicle will work as best as it can, since only our pride is on the line (and our jobs).

How would you feel if you were making the call and decided to launch without knowing the details about a potentially fatal defect? How would you feel if you say "fly as is" and the vehicle exploded?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 6:58. You make perfect arguments to use Soyuz rather than the Shuttle for ISS swap-outs. As Mr. Halverson pointed out above, Soyuz is the safer vehicle. None of them are prefect, Soyuz is safer though and has a better on-time record. You evoke God and safety as though that lets NASA off the hook for the atrocious design they sold the public (like a bill of goods) in the late 70s. I encourage you to look up NASA'a master plan and budget promises for shuttle cost and schedule performance. I have 30 years in Aerospce Finance and I can tell you their track record vs commitment is "woeful."

How would I feel if I were making the call? Simple. I'd cancel the shuttle program as soon as possible (ISS completion). BTW, it isn't Soyuz that carries supplies into orbit but Progress. Both are much smaller than the shuttle, which was never supposed to be so large until the USAF got involved. Unfortunately, once the grossly oversized design was conceived, NASA saluted and said, "Can do, sir!" Had someone from NASA merely had the strength of will (clangers) to say, at the time, "But we forsee these problems..." we'd be, as former Administrator Griffin has said, "15 to 20 years ahead of where we are now." (paraphrase)

Please don't use one instance of a scrubbed launch to make it sound like NASA gets off the hook for 30 years of conceiving, designing, testing, fielding and using a flawed system. And please don't let NASA off the hook for ignoring internal dissident before Challenger and taking off for Martin Luther King weekend and ignoring warning signs when Columbia, damaged, was in orbit.

I have the highest respect imaginable for the astronauts and the worker bees on the shuttle program. My respect though does not extend to the leadership over the past generation, those such as Wayne Hale who would try to explain away every defect as though it were "a loose spark plug wire on my pick-up."

Sorry, sir, but I don't sport the red, while and blue sunglasses and I don't take the NASA Kool-Aid by IV.

I encourage you all to contact Rep Kozmas and tell her to quit her absurd attempt to keep the shuttle flying for God knows how long (in the end, she'll just say it's a "durned shame" that Congress refused her request and that she "did all she could") and tell her instead to fight tooth and nail to get new R&D programs awarded to Brevard County. What she's doing is pandering to her constituents. You all deserve better but she is, after all, a politician. So what do you expect?